Review: This Means War
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
An action, spy, love-triangle, bromance, rom-com that feels as confused and cynically broad as it sounds...
During the climax of This Means War Chris Pine tries to kill Tom Hardy. Their characters are fighting over Reese Witherspoon and, after destroying half a restaurant, Pine throws a knife at his rival. Hardy dodges and the knife buries itself an inch deep into an upturned oak table. No comedy, no joke, Pine tries to straight up murder Hardy. It spoke volumes of the rest of the movie that this was the first time I found myself empathising with any of the characters.
And what characters they are - Pine plays FDR Foster and Hardy plays Tuck Henson. Foster and Henson are a swashbuckling pair of super spies who, in between eyeing up beautiful women and making wise cracks, indulge in chaotic shoot-outs, sliding on their knees and throwing Russian crims of the tops of large buildings. Tom Hardy’s Tuck is a gruff, tattooed Brit with a young son by a beautiful estranged ex. Chris Pine’s Foster is a stylish, immature playboy with a swimming pool containing beautiful bikini clad women built into the ceiling of his penthouse apartment (you know the type). Both are in the market for a new squeeze and, wouldn’t you know it, by happy plot contrivance they manage to both fall for the kooky-but-sexy Lauren Scott, played by Reese Witherspoon.
Upon finding out their shared love interest the two decide to do the sensible thing and enter a gentleman’s agreement to continue dating Lauren independently without telling and let her choose the best man. If that doesn’t sound hilarious enough they also decide to use their super-spy skills to monitor and sabotage each other’s efforts.
This premise sets up a tedious hour or so of competitive dates interspersed with genuinely quite creepy scenes of the pair sneaking into Witherspoon’s house (while she’s there) in order to plant cameras and go through her treasured childhood possessions. The dates themselves do raise the occasional smile with the most enjoyable being Tuck attempting to lose his “safe” image by wreaking havoc in a paintball match. However even this scene highlights one of the biggest problems of the film, namely that all the jokes are visible a mile off (take a wild guess, will Reese Witherspoon end up shooting someone in the crotch with her paintball gun or not?)Throughout the film this level of predictability lessens the impact of the already scant comic material the actors are working with.
Unfortunately things don’t improve when it comes to the films action scenes. It had been my hope that a reasonable budget, high production values, Tom Hardy and the guarantee of explosions/cars/gun would produce a formula which couldn't go too far wrong. However, these scenes proved to be even more disappointing than the comedy and romance aspects. Director Joseph McGinty Nichol (or McG as he’s known by idiots) confuses excitable editing with exciting action scenes. The use of rapid editing is a technique which, when done well - such as in the Bourne films or The Dark Knight - can make action feel immediate and intense. But when it’s done as badly as it is here all it leads to is confusion and faint nausea.
As for the performances of the leading three, Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine look relatively at home but there’s a strong whiff of “I’m just paying the bills” about Tom Hardy’s ‘tough brit’ performance. Hardy’s character is left unpolished. He keeps his tattoos, scruffy haircut and the less than perfect set of gnashers which serve as a stamp of Britishness alongside him calling everyone “mate” all the time.
Hardy is a fine actor who has shown that he can pull of both comedy and action; his character managed both brilliantly in Inception. Indeed,it had always been my assumption that if Christopher Nolan ever gets to make the Bond film he clearly wants (and deserves) then Hardy would be a natural choice for his Bond. This Means War was so bad it made me less certain. It’s far from a career wrecker, but being associated with films like this isn’t going to help Hardy’s standing going forward. Witherspoon and Pine are capable of far better too of course, but they aren’t given the opportunity to succeed. The films biggest culprit is a script which doesn’t give its actors anything substantial to work with.
Ultimately, it would be unfair to criticise the film for tortured plot or lack of realism as these have been sacrificed in plenty of other great films to allow for a more substantial feast of action, twists, romance and laughs. However, This Means War fails to deliver any meaningful moments in regards to any of the above.
Put simply, This Means War is trying to tick as many boxes as possible, but making comedy this broad is actually a very narrow minded ploy; and the result is considerably less than the parts.
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